Emirati astronaut pledges support for Aussie bushfire relief effort

Max Blenkin

Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi has rallied behind the nationwide efforts of the UAE to help provide support to Australian communities devastated by bushfires.

Emirati astronaut pledges support for Aussie bushfire relief effort
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Australia and the United Arab Emirates are good friends. After all, large numbers of Australians visit the UAE, which hosts Australia’s main military base for operations in the Middle East.

Many Emiratis study in Australian universities. One of them, space scientist and astronaut designate Sultan Al Neyadi, has thrown his support behind a UAE-wide campaign to help fire-ravaged Australia.

Dr Al Neyadi was part of the backup flight crew for Hazza Al Mansouri’s historic mission to the International Space Station in September-October last year.

He joined a humanitarian convoy from the Emirates that visited a bushfire emergency centre in NSW, hard hit by the bushfires.

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Dr Al Neyadi is familiar with Australia. He studied for his doctorate at Griffith University in Queensland.

In a series of tweets to his thousands of followers, Dr Al Neyadi said he was “overwhelmed by emotions of support and love to the country where we all studied”.

“I and a group of other Emirati professionals visited Australia in solidarity and compassion,” he wrote.

“The scale of destruction is palpable. But together, we stand. Please join us in showing solidarity with Australia throughout this crisis,” he added, using the hashtag #mateshelpmates.

He also posted a NASA image taken from space showing the smoke plume over eastern Australia.

Dr Al Neyadi visited the Cooma Country Emergency Operation Centre and an emergency shelter in NSW, with Zayed Al Saqqaf, representing the UAE Ministry of Defence, nuclear reactor operator Sara Al Khouri from the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant and lawyer Samiha Al Raeesi from the UAE tourism authority.

The Emirates Red Crescent and the Australian Red Cross, with the Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, have launched an appeal for Emiratis to donate to a bushfire fund for victims and families who had lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the fires.

Dr Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency – who also studied in Australia – also pledged his support.

“We stand in solidarity with those affected by the tragic forest fires in Australia, the country I lived in for years during my master’s and PhD studies,’’ he wrote.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said the UAE would provide vital manpower, expertise and financial aid to the stricken nation.

Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation, said on Thursday that there was a groundswell of support for Australia in the UAE.

“A grassroots movement is growing in the UAE community to support Australia at this time,” she said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was appreciative.

“Thank you UAE for your condolences and offers of support,” he tweeted.

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